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A Drawing Room



"Old men ought to be explorers/ Here and there does not matter/ We must be still and still moving/ Into another intensity/ for a further union, a deeper communion/ Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,/ The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters/ Of the petrel and the porpoise."
TS Eliot, East Coker, V, 31-38
I get chills every time I read East Coker. I am inspired by the call to live like one of the aged explorers; it is a call for all people to be in deeper communion with the world and fellow man in all situations. I am drawn by their effort and persistent determination to live a life of learning and extended grace. I am reminded that I can have rich and meaningful interaction with the world around me and that my life as a communal Individual increases through this communion. It is towards this depth of interaction that drawing engages every individual, to visualize and live into contemplation and communion.

Drawing has, from the earliest cave paintings to the latest Biennial, occupied an integral stage of human exploration and communication. Its symbiosis of historic foundationalism and boundary-pushing exploration makes it a dynamic expression of the Individual. Mel Bochner defined drawing at the brink of the Conceptualism movement as: "the site of private speculations, a snapshot of the mind at work." The direct use of material inherent in the process immediately connects the action of the mind to actions of the hand. For Joseph Beuys, drawing is “the first visible thing of the form of the thought, the changing point from the invisible powers to the visible thing.” In this way, drawing embodies the physical and philosophical inscription of the Individual into reality.

This active dialogue of Individual and their environment is the basis for communion. A Drawing Room is rooted in this commitment to drawing as a meaningful, democratic, and universal expression of human experience. However, this humble, incredible gift is often shortchanged. Without careful consideration, we are at risk of losing this fundamental expression of humanity.

One of the most devastating, unintentional, and possibly culminating effects of organized cultural institutions is the belief that it takes something unique - or genius - to make drawing meaningful. This belief permeates the American psyche to the extent that students struggle to even try to express their thoughts and ideas through mark-making. Their most intuitive and innate form of communication has been capped. This is not simply a loss of self expression; we are dealing with a deeper problem. Our Individual mark is at risk. Lamentably, the past is filled with such erasures and imposed marks which strip individuals of their full humanity. It is not only in history’s extreme examples such as signature revocation of U.S. slaves and number branding of Nazi concentration camp victims, but also through unassessed ideologies of both institutions and individuals that we have removed, inhibited, and diminished others’ marks in the world.

In defiance of this possibility, A Drawing Room endeavors to enrich individual mark-making – to celebrate and breathe meaning into the mundane and ordinary. The Room itself is a recurring, temporary installation model which transforms a space into a room for dialogue and and inquiry though drawing. The host’s drawings provide a starting point for dialogue and invite visitors to become colleagues through their own drawings in dynamic conversation. Rather than the fine, high class furniture of its namesake’s historical model, A Drawing Room is furnished by functional, mobile objects to facilitate communal activity.

Historically, ‘withdrawing’ rooms were used to entertain guests and practice the arts in privileged privacy. Whether practicing one’s music or continuing your Sunday-painting pastime, the drawing room provided protection of both the subject and practice from outside criticism and possible enjoyment. This space certainly still exists today. But while taken from a historic model, a Room exists as a space of universal access and engagement. Any such nostalgic and passive expectations of the viewer – and their problematic implications of class, accessibility, and power – are challenged through the open invitation to activate the space.

The subject of this Drawing Room is the investigation of the formation of a national identity through the mythicization of its founders. In Remembrance of our Past, in Hope to our Future and Windsor Settee, 19th c. American both trace the creation of American identity through the inheritance and transformation from its progenitor, England. By drawing out the historical and literary relationships between the foundational figures of King Arthur and Abraham Lincoln, an archetypical pattern begins to develop through their cultural import to and impact on the history, land, and people of their nations. The work combines both sweeping historical narratives and personal notations (in a vein similar to Sean Landers’ streams of consciousness paintings and Deb Sokolow’s paranoid chronicles) to manifest the wake of a wanderer in history.

This is a shared realm of individual and communal action. This is an open dialogue and developing narrative. Through its activation, the Room re-democratizes the “creative” and “academic” spaces - empowering individuals to deep, intentional dialogue in the local and immediate present. Wendell Berry, a contemporary poet and writer, encourages such a practice in this way: "I am occupied... with increasing the richness and the abundance and the meaningfulness of [this small] part of the earth for my family and myself, and for those who will live there after us." His spirit of conservation and celebration looks outwards from the self for the enrichment of others regardless of the personal effort and cost. At the highest level, I strive after what art theorist Klaus Ottmann calls the "need for an art of silence" or Eliot’s “still and still moving.” Ottmann continues,
"[It is] an art that leaves, in Kierkegaard's words, 'the ironic nothingness' for a 'mystical nothingness' rooted in terrains of silence that makes us listen to the innerness of our being, relate the myths of creation, and place us within the original purity and sincerity of the beginning of all things. A silence that restores art to the world by restoring its meaning."
Together, artist and viewer become participants in a conversation, a communion, with the deep moments of human experience.

I see drawing’s innate and universal power as an essential practice to foster this exponentially growing human human conversation. Drawing grants a voice to all, and though it we may learn to live the life of extended grace and communion.

Exterior View, Entrance


Table and Stools


Interior view


Remembrance of our Past, In Hope to our Future


Participant Responses